Metrolinx no longer a sure thing

The future of Metrolinx, the provincial agency overseeing transit in the GTA, depends more on who is in power at Queens Park and less about sound policies.

The future of Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency created by the government in 2006, is now in political limbo – providing more evidence on why the transit system should be founded on a system of competition, not politics.

Tim Hudak, the current head of the Ontario PC party, announced on Monday that he would consider scrapping the transit agency if he forms the next provincial government. “If something is just out there as some arm of government for propaganda and not achieving a purpose for jobs, we should shut those things down,” he said, according to the Toronto Star.

Metrolinx has wide-eyed plans for transit across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). It has tabled $50 billion of transit-related projects over the next 25 years – ranging from a downtown subway line, LRTs in Hamilton and Mississauga, dedicated bus-lanes and all-day, two-way bus service on GO trains. The agency has called on the provincial government to hike sales and gasoline taxes as well parking and development fees to pay for its projects.

But all of those plans hinge on a government in Queens Park willing to find a way to siphon more than $2 billion a year to the agency – largely to fund uneconomic projects that will act as a further drain on the transit system. Hudak’s announcement makes it clear that future funding for Metrolinx – or even the agency itself – is far from a certainty.

This is a promising development. Runaway costs for massive infrastructure projects that are unlikely to serve the transit needs of Torontonians will fail to tackle congestion, but will lead to higher fares and taxes.

Instead, Toronto’s transit systems could be opened up to greater competition. Doing so could provide the first steps in ensuring that revenues are better able to cover the costs of operation, while providing transit more choice in their transportation options.

Brady Yauch is an economist and Executive Director of the Consumer Policy Institute (CPI). You can reach Brady by email at: bradyyauch (at) consumerpolicyinstitute.org or at (416) 964-9223 ext 236.

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